Samantha's Reviews > Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley

Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon
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really liked it

While I have long been a fan of Frankenstein, I have not yet read Mary Shelley's other works and of her mother's, I'm only familiar with A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Thanks to a couple of movies about the Shelleys and Lord Byron, I knew a little of Mary Shelley's life (sensationalized to the extreme, of course), but almost nothing of Wollestonecraft's. All this is to say, I was primed to want to learn more.

And learn more, I did. Both women faced so much personal tragedy and serious censure for crimes which would hardly make people blink anymore: love affairs, becoming mothers while unwed, speaking their minds. And yet, even though I'd like to think their lives would have been different were they living now, I know that women still face censure and sidelining of the same sort to this day--it's just a little less direct now. Their stories still resonate with my own experience and observations on some levels.

The stories of both women are so fascinating, it would hard to write a dull book about them, and Gordon wrote a fascinating account. Her structure of alternating chapters, first one Mary, then the other, proved illuminating as it highlighted contrasts and similarities between the two women's lives, and helped to show how Mary Shelley, despite having never known her mother in person lived her entire life under Mary Wollestonecraft's heavy influence.

The role that men played in their lives is not discounted either, and, though Gordon pulls no punches about the damage that Shelley and Godwin inflicted on their wives in life and in death, she is sympathetic to all the historical personages and their conflicting reasons for the decisions they made and actions they took.

An especially good read if you already have an interest in the period and the literature of the times, but not to be discounted even if you've never considered them before. My favorite nonfiction read so far this year.
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Reading Progress

June 21, 2019 – Started Reading
June 21, 2019 – Shelved
July 11, 2019 – Finished Reading

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